Tag: Washington state governor race (Page 1 of 2)

InsleeSpitzer_03

Former NY Gov. Spitzer—“Client 9”—to Hold New York City Fundraiser for Inslee Campaign

Candidate for Washington State governor Congressman Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) will soon be getting a fundraising boost from none other than disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), also known as “Client No. 9” in a federal investigation of a high-class prostitution ring, multiple news sources in New York are reporting Friday.

Spitzer’s uptown Manhattan gathering for Inslee is the first stage of a re-entry into politics. According to The New York Post:

The former governor is hosting the event at his Fifth Avenue home for Washington state gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee on March 5.

Inslee, currently a Democrat in the House of Representatives, shares many of Spitzer’s left-leaning political stances.

Insiders believe Spitzer’s soiree shows he’s trying to become a political mover and shaker once again — this time as a national kingmaker.

In the same New York Post article, at least one political insider is quoted as saying Spitzer’s career arc is just a case of doing what comes naturally:

“The second-oldest profession in the world is political fund raising,” a politico sniffed yesterday.

Despite the positive effect a successful cash grab for Inslee could have for Spitzer’s career rehab, one has to wonder how Inslee’s association with an admitted user of prostitutes will play among Washington State women, particularly when juxtaposed against the proactive work his opponent has done to attack the skin trade and sex slavery from a variety of angles.

In his capacity as Attorney General and while the Republican candidate for governor, Rob McKenna has been visible and vocal in efforts to create harsher punishments for human traffickers as well as joining in a national effort to force Village Voice Media to clean up its Backpage.com site, an national online classified ad service that has been cited in dozens of criminal cases as a venue where trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors occurs.

Village Voice Media publishes Seattle Weekly, a publication that also utilizes Backpage.com as a revenue source, and McKenna continues to work with the State Legislature on legislation that would force Seattle Weekly to halt a practice that facilitates child prostitution.

From a Feb. 14 Seattle Times editorial:

An independent study by Advanced Interactive Media Group estimated that Back-page.com‘s “Adult” section is expected to earn its owner, Village Voice Media, $24.8 million, accounting for more than two-thirds of the $36 million in revenue projected to be earned by all tracked online classified ads facilitating commercial sex. Village Voice Media also owns Seattle Weekly.

Dozens of cases in 15 states involve girls allegedly sold for sex on Backpage.com, according to Shared Hope International, an anti-sex-trafficking group headed by former Republican Congresswoman Linda Smith. Moreover, the Seattle Police Department has linked 22 cases of child prostitution since 2010 to girls advertised as escorts on the website.

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AaronReardon

Still In a Campaign Against Hope, Is Sno County Exec Reardon Contemplating a Run for Governor?

Though Congressman Jay Inslee has been the lone Democrat in next year’s Washington State governor’s race, according to Seattle liberal blog Publicola he could have company.

Though Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon (D) is currently running for re-election in a very tight race with Republican challenger Mike Hope, he may already be looking ahead to run for higher office. From the Publicola post:

An attendee at a fundraiser for Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon this week (Democrat Reardon is running for reelection) says Reardon said he is considering jumping into the governor’s race early next year. …

Reardon would not confirm or deny the rumor, telling PubliCola he’s “flattered that my name keeps coming up, but all I’m thinking about right now is continuing the work we’re doing to bring jobs to Snohomish County.”

Still engaged in a campaign against Hope, could the two-term county executive be fondling the lever on his ejection seat during a tough race for re-election? The fight to win his own office may be more challenging than he anticipated. Hope earned almost 48% in the primary compared to the Republican challenger facing Reardon in 2007 who finished with a paltry 30% of the vote.

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[photo credit: WSDOT]

 

TwoLeftFeet

Inslee and Gregoire at Odds on Closing Tax Loopholes to Solve State Budget Crisis

[Update: Comments from WSRP Chairman Kirby Wilbur added at bottom.]

On Thursday’s announcement by Gov. Christine Gregoire of a late November special legislative session to resolve the state’s $1.5 billion budget woes, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature traded opening statements in the press, and the candidates for governor added their own comments.

Congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Jay Inslee came out with a quick statement after the announcement, a sharp contrast to his notable silence over the past week as details of the state’s worsening revenue picture came out. Today, Inslee suggested that the Legislature should steer clear of making further cuts to education and took aim at corporate tax breaks including exemptions given to banks lending to first-time home buyers.

“There are still options for the legislature to pursue including finding savings by closing ineffective corporate tax loopholes, such as the exemption for out-of-state banks,” said Inslee.

Ironically, in coming out against the breaks, Inslee put himself at odds with Gregoire. Asked by a reporter at Thursday’s press conference to address those who support closing loopholes, Gregoire’s answer seemed to take dead aim at the congressman’s loophole-cinching solution.

“For the alleged tax loophole as has been described… there is always some advocate, there’s always some consequence and often times it’s a job that will be lost,” Gregoire said. “That may be a big answer in Washington, D.C., but we don’t do what they do.” (Video below.)

On the subject of whether taxes should be the preferred area of discussion, Inslee consulted the progressive thesaurus when advocating for focusing on taxes.

“I hope the legislature seriously addresses the questions about how we put ourselves on a long-term path to economic recovery and how to preserve priorities like education that create economic opportunity, and make responsible investments in our families and future,” Inslee said.

But selling the idea that taxes are investments requires the additional logical step of connecting government spending with a benefit of some sort, a case indirectly made more difficult because of widely-reported failures in the type of federal government investment Inslee supports. Recent revelations of billion dollar losses in failed loans to solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and Seattle’s failure to convert $20 million in federal grant funds into even 20 new jobs may spoil, in the minds of voters, the elegance of Inslee’s equation.

In contrast, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna’s comment stuck to safer ground, praising Gregoire’s decision to call the session before January and suggesting that a diplomatic process is what Washington needs.

“No one can be pleased with the situation that our state budget is in, but I do congratulate the Governor for recognizing the need for action this year, and scheduling a special legislative session to start November 28,” McKenna said. “I look forward, as should all Washingtonians, to a speedy and bi-partisan resolution to the current challenge after legislative leaders spend the next two months negotiating with the Governor.”

The dream of a peaceful deliberation and compromise is probably dead on arrival, however, since legislators have been jockeying for the rhetorical high ground since before the state issued a newer, darker revenue forecast last week.

Even before last week’s disappointing forecast was released, State Sen. Joe Zarelli, Senate Republican leader on budget issues, had called loudly for the Governor to assemble a nine-member “Super Legislature” – not unlike the bipartisan Super Congress in the nation’s capital – to recommend budget solutions. Zarelli and State Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt made it clear in their joint statement they will seek a dialogue on that model and talks should begin with assessing spending priorities, not raising taxes.

“[The focus] needs to remain on figuring out which state services are priorities and how to provide those as cost-effectively as possible, because that’s how we will move our budget toward long-term sustainability,” said Zarelli and Hewitt. “We know from recent history that as soon as discussions begin about increasing revenue, all talk of reforms seems to evaporate.”

On the other side of the aisle, State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D) and State Sen. Ed Murray issued a joint statement with a blatant nod to the gun Democrats will be laying on the negotiating table.

“As legislators, we have many tools for balancing our budget,” said Brown and Murray. “Including giving the voters the option of approving new revenue to pay for the services they want.”

The option alluded to is sending a referendum to voters for tax increases, an alternative that key Democrats have floated for several weeks, despite clear signals from State Sen. Joe Zarelli (R) that a referendum should not count on support from Senate Republicans.

A tax referendum could prove to be a double-edged sword for Democrats in 2012 if voters perceive the move as a way to sidestep legislative duties by outsourcing tough political choices.

“The voters of Washington in November 2010 soundly rejected tax increases and new taxes. With a stagnant economy, there is no reason to think they have changed their minds,” Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur told NW Daily Marker by email. “If the Democrats put an increase in taxes on the November 2012 ballot, I will have to reconsider my beliefs about Santa Claus. That move would guarantee a Republican statewide victory, a new governor and majorities in both houses of the Legislature.”

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[photo credit: djfrantic]

JayInslee

Inslee Discloses Details of Disputed $200K Transfer from Fed Account, Several Donors Over the Max

On Friday, congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Jay Inslee disclosed the details of a near-$200,000 rollover from his federal campaign fund, a transaction completed at the end of June. The Republican candidate in the race, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, called the transfer into question on several grounds, precipitating a partial reversal of the Public Disclosure Commission’s earlier signal of thumbs-up to Inslee. In late July, the Public Disclosure Commission determined that the transfer was permissible, but that individual donors would need to be identified and their contributions would have to be counted against limits in this election cycle. The PDC also implied that donors should consent to having their contributions rolled over.

Finally, a month after the PDC required the Inslee campaign to submit the itemized account of names and amounts, the list was dumped on the election finance watchdog the day before a lazy Labor Day holiday weekend. But based on NW Daily Marker’s analysis, though Inslee has edged closer to fixing errors in the reporting his campaign finances, it now appears that he has taken several thousand dollars in campaign contributions above legal limits.

A list of ten individual contributors in the PDC database are shown to have contributed more than the $1,600 allowed for each election (primary and general) to Inslee’s gubernatorial campaign fund. Three donors have exceeded the limit for both elections. The total amount of contributions over the maximum is $12,500, perhaps small compared to the total amount in Inslee’s campaign coffers but where dollars are concerned, zero-error tolerance is a universal standard.

Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith implied to The Seattle Times on Friday that they were aware infractions may have occurred, but were not sure what the exact numbers were:

Spokeswoman Jaime Smith said some donors had rolled over their federal money and given on top of that. She said the campaign would be disclosing some refunds next week, but she didn’t have a final number available.

Inslee’s amended C3 cash receipt report also changed the amount of small donations (those under $25) received on a single day – June 27th – from $388 to $2,523.

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[photo credit: flickr]

HandCookieJar

So, That Inslee $1 Million Campaign Fund Transfer… Not Exactly Legal After All

UPDATE: Added comments from the McKenna campaign below the main post.

It’s been a bumpy week for campaigns on both sides of the political fence in the Washington state governors race, one that Politico ranked today as the top most competitive gubernatorial race in the nation. Though Politico gave Democratic contender and 1st District Congressman Jay Inslee the edge in the contest due to some less-than-smooth handling of a Democratic paid stalker, a reversal of fortune appears to be cause for a minor recalculation of the odds.

Since last week, Republican candidate Rob McKenna has suggested that a $1 million transfer by Inslee from his Congressional campaign fund to his gubernatorial coffers was “illegal.” Now, the State Public Disclosure Commission has placed the question of legality in a kind of campaign finance purgatory or limbo. Washington State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz quickly went on the offensive, taking shots at McKenna’s legal knowledge and alleging that his campaign was “lying” for political gain.

Well, Dwight, it appears thou doth protest too much.

Though the PDC had first stated that the transfers were lawful, a partial about-face Friday by the campaign finance compliance agency should have the Inslee campaign and Democrats dining on crow and dialing past donors for a while.

Our understanding of the PDC’s present position is that Inslee may transfer from his congressional fund as long as he a) has permission from any donors and b) counts the transferred amounts against the individual donor limit of $3,200 per election cycle. We have inquired with the PDC for clarification on this point.

Washington State Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur issued a rapid statement in response to the ruling, a peppery demand for his Democratic counterpart to recant charges that Republicans had been lying about possible problems with Inslee’s $1 million transfer.

“Dwight Pelz should make sure of the facts before issuing public statements with such certainty,” said state Wilbur, referring to previous statements by Pelz defending Inslee’s actions as legal and proper.

“I also believe that a fine by the PDC is appropriate in this case. I would suggest $2 million, with $1 million suspended,” said Wilbur.  “The state could use the money.”

UPDATE: I spoke with McKenna campaign manager Randy Pepple by telephone Friday afternoon who said, “Hopefully Inslee has learned a lesson to play by Washington state rules instead of Washington D.C. rules.”

Moments later a press release arrived from Friends of McKenna that also suggested that there is still more to the matter than what the PDC has sought to clarify:

After learning key facts about Congressman Jay Inslee’s attempt to transfer federal campaign cash to his run for governor, the state Public Disclosure Commission advised him today that his dubious scheme is not legal and will not be allowed.

“I was confident that the PDC would see through Congressman Inslee’s illegal scheme to secretly transfer federal money to a state campaign without identifying who gave the money or obeying our state’s limits on contributions,” said Randy Pepple, campaign manager for Friends of Rob McKenna. “The voters of Washington state like clean and open elections, and Congressman Inslee’s attempt to slip around the rules shows he is willing to put his pursuit of yet another political office ahead of following the law.”

Congressman Inslee had sought to move his federal campaign funds to his campaign for governor in a lump sum. He planned to do this secretly, without attributing the donations to specific donors, and without those donations counting toward Washington state’s campaign finance limits.

Congressman Inslee’s campaign must now divulge the names of the donors who were part of a transfer listed on his first PDC report for Governor filed earlier this month.

It appears that Seattle weather isn’t the only thing heating up as we head into the month of August.

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JayInslee04

Inslee Plan to Ignite Washington Economy is All Smoke, No Fire

You have only to listen to Congressman Jay Inslee’s kickoff announcement of his candidacy for Governor to realize his is absolutely the wrong person to put in charge of running Washington State. Like all politicians, he says he wants to improve the state’s economy and promote job creation, but exactly how does he plan on doing that?

He says now isn’t the time to discuss raising taxes, but as we’ve seen with the current incumbent, Gov. Christine Gregoire, he doesn’t mean tax hikes are off-limits during a recession, but during an election campaign. Inslee’s already admitted he’s open to increasing tax revenues by eliminating tax deductions; does he believe that all businesses need to turn things around is more taxes?

He advocates the State taking greater action in providing capital to new start up firms and research centers, to boost high tech business across the state. He plans to get the money to do this from the state pension funds, making risky loans with the state employee’s retirement funds. These are the same plans that are already seriously underfunded, due to the effects of the market downturn in 2008 on the aggressive investing needed to attempt to get an 8% return.

There is, of course, the old standby of economic development through massive state projects, such as the new bridge across the Columbia. Whether a new bridge’s multi-billion dollar price tag is worth the cost, or whether the State can even afford the money to build it, is yet to be seen.

With the usual promises of improving the funding and quality of education in the state comes the idea of reducing health care costs by weeding out inefficiencies and putting the savings towards education. This is remarkable coming from a Congressman who voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which, in spite of its name, has actually driven health care costs up. Moreover, the PPACA threatens to completely overwhelm the state’s budget when it takes full effect and hundreds of thousands are added to the State’s Medicaid rolls.

Firmly committed to public sector employee collective bargaining rights, it is hard to imagine Inslee will be very successful in holding the line on escalating state workers pay and benefits. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect much budgetary restraint from a member of Congress that has run up trillion dollar plus deficits for three years in a row.

Jay Inslee talks of being committed to bringing “new blood to Olympia”, apparently spending two terms as a state representative before becoming a Congressman doesn’t qualify as “old blood”.  Still, it’s difficult to see how he can successfully portray himself as an outsider; I don’t think many people will be reassured by the slogan “I’m from Washington D.C. and I’m here to help.”

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[photo credit: flickr]

SONY DSC

Inslee Plan to Loan Pension Funds to Start-Ups is Risky, Unnecessary

Since Congressman Jay Inslee made his announcement Monday  that he would challenge Republican Rob McKenna in next year’s election for governor, conversation has been stuck on one point—his proposal to use state pension funds for private sector investment in start-ups—in Inslee’s otherwise vaguely-defined plan to correct the state’s economic course.

As reported by The Seattle Times:

One of Inslee’s chief ideas to spur job growth was to open up resources for start-up companies who are currently starved for cash. He suggested using a small amount of state pension money to support these businesses – an investment that is typically risky – and grow new industries. He declined to say how much money he would commit to such a program.

But ten minutes on an Internet search engine could have given Inslee an opportunity to make last-minute revisions to a plan that opponents suggest is at best risky and at worst a lurch toward European-style economic planning. No matter how many millions Inslee wants to borrow from state workers’ retirement pay, one research group came out Monday to say that pension funds like Washington’s are already stretched to the breaking point.

Just as Inslee was proposing to “invest” the retirement income of state workers into start-up firms—businesses in the highest category of risk—he may not have known the Institute for Truth in Accounting was releasing its 50-state study of worker benefit solvency, a report in which only four states were found to have sufficient assets to cover obligations for state workers for pensions and retirees’ healthcare. (Washington was not one of the four states in the black.)

The Institute’s study concluded that Washington State needs more than $14.9 billion to cover its current promised obligations, an amount that translates to a burden of $6,500 per taxpayer.

In light of the Institution’s findings, Inslee’s proposal seems more like a risky game of fiscal Jenga played on a crowded table. When the pieces of Inslee’s fantastic economic construction do fall, taxpayers will be forced to pick up the pieces from the inevitable failure of his experiment in merging bureaucracy and entrepreneurism. In all likelihood, the million dollar blocks will come crashing down not on the heads of retirees themselves, but on local governments as author and City Journal editor Steve Malanga, suggested Monday in The Wall Street Journal:

Earlier this year, California’s Little Hoover Commission, a government oversight agency, observed: “Barring a miraculous market advance and sustained economic expansion, no government entity—especially at the local level—will be able to absorb the blow [from rising pensions] without severe cuts to services.”

Inslee’s plan to use pension funds for economic experimentation is not a new one, even for the congressman. In the book Inslee co-authored in 2009, Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy, he used California’s pension system (CalPERS) as an example of what government could do to spur growth in the so-called clean-tech sector:

At the same time, major public pension funds like that of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, with $190 billion in assets in 2005, and other socially responsible investors are putting money into clean technology and finding that the new energy economy meets their social and environmental goals even as it makes a profit for their bottom line.

If there was laughter heard Monday in the Golden State when Inslee again suggested commandeering public pensions to be used as high-risk investment pools, it was because CalPERS—both in terms of its investment behavior and its overall financial stability is just one more example of the reverse Midas touch he inflicts when promoting organizations to the top of his hierarchy of success.

The current estimated 30% underfunding of CalPERS—an amount a March 2011 Los Angeles Times editorial stated was in the “tens of billions”— is due in large part to risky investing. The most recent problems at CalPERS stem from unsafe investing in exotic mortgage instruments, but the troubles are not the entity’s first encounter with red ink.

It is important to note that the fiduciary entity responsible for paying hundreds of thousands of California public employees in their retirement, had its own part to play in the first scandal of the 21st century that rocked the financial world—Enron.

One of the more notorious elements in the Enron scandal (oh, how a banking crisis will wipe the memory slate clean) was the joint venture between the energy giant and CalPERS known as Joint Energy Development Investments (JEDI). The purpose of JEDI was to seek out investments in energy companies. Is this what Inslee has in mind when he proposes diverting over-obligated pension funds to make investments in risky start-up companies? If Inslee opened the vault for the Democrats to begin using like a monthly investment club, what would stand between Washington State and the temptation that CalPERS succumbed to?

On the other hand, even seemingly prudent involvement in the market by government can go awry.

Using CalPERS as an example again (it’s the largest pension system of its kind in the United States), in 2002 the entity became part of the Asian banking contagion, reacting to fears of losses by yanking its investments out of Southeast Asia. Joining other skittish stockholders in a bolt for the exit, CalPERS caused a run on markets that eventually necessitated a full-scale banking bailout led by the United States. Analysts such as William Pesek Jr. writing for Bloomberg have argued that not only did CalPERS exacerbate what could have been a minor correction in Asian stocks, it swung so far in the direction of being risk-averse that it missed out on the resurgent growth in the same markets it abandoned.

In February 2002, CalPERS tried to stake out the moral high ground when it pulled out of stocks in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It cited concerns about corporate governance, political instability and labor standards. It turns out that those markets have been among the world’s top performers for two years running. …

The biggest losers weren’t the economies CalPERS vacated, but its shareholders. They missed out on a 17 percent rise in Thai stocks in 2002 and 117 percent jump in 2003. They also lost out on an 8 percent rise in Indonesian shares in 2002 and a 63 percent increase in 2003. Malaysian shares rose almost 23 percent last year.

What Inslee’s proposal to revive Washington’s economy fails to recognize is that in order to regain its potency—particularly in the area of its small and medium-size start-ups that Inslee correctly identifies as the drivers of the economy—a rethinking of the tax code is more likely to produce results than providing selective support to businesses chosen based on a narrow set of criteria.

When a new business has gathered the capital necessary to fledge from the nest of its innovation into the realm of competitive business, a chief obstacle it faces in Washington state is a regressive business tax structure. Washington’s business and occupation tax—one that taxes a business’ first dollar of income at the same rate manner as its one billionth—has been creating a formidable barrier for small businesses trying to compete with more established ones.

For Inslee, a career politician, concepts such as break-even points and economies of scale may be recognizable only as phrases to be emphasized forcefully when addressing large groups of corporate donors. Nevertheless, he should hear from small business owners on the issue of replacing the business and occupation tax and its complex system of preferential credits and deductions, perks lobbied into being by the big businesses. To do so could be the best way to restore fairness to the state’s economy and unleash the full potential of what the region has to offer.

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[featured image credit: flickr; article image credit: flickr]

JayInslee02

Inslee’s Record Picking Biofuel Winners and Losers is Far From Perfect

The issue of green jobs and clean energy solutions is likely to feature prominently throughout Congressman Jay Inslee’s campaign for Washington State governor. But what is Inslee’s real track record on picking the winning and losing fuel sources for America’s future. Not good, according to environmental policy guru Todd Myers.

Myers writes at Red County:

Inslee has long been an advocate of government regulations and subsidies that favor biofuels. As part of his announcement, when asked about potential future tax increases, Inslee would only say “We don’t know what the future brings.” By way of comparison, Inslee has been quite bold about his predictions regarding the future of biofuel technology. In 2008, when his book was published, he and his co-author confidently wrote:

It would be comforting to avoid the prospect of being proven wrong by the passage of time. But your authors are built of sterner stock. We refuse to take refuge in the privilege of punditry to cloak our comments in vague surmises. … About 2011, plug-in hybrids will start to hit the roads just at the same time that meaningful amounts of cellulosic ethanol are becoming available at service stations across the country.

Here in 2011, cellulosic ethanol has not emerged as a significant alternative. One reason is that he believed that by 2011 “Congress will have done its job and mandated production of flex-fuel vehicles and a certain percentage of service stations to offer biofuel pumps.” The fact that this did not occur can be laid, ironically, at the feet of Inslee and the members of his Congressional majority. They did not pass the legislation to make this happen, nor did they even pass a budget in 2010 to extend the biofuel credit, amounting to $1.00 a gallon for cellulosic biofuel.

This isn’t the only time Jay Inslee has been wrong about biofuels. Inslee’s faith in biofuels as an alternative energy and job-creator has repeatedly missed the mark.

You can read the entire piece about Inslee’s poor track record for predicting biofuels at Red County.

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[photo credit: flickr]

CaughtStealing

Contrary to Media Reporting: Inslee Announces for Governor at Firm with Donor Ties

It seems that even without a full day having passed since Congressman Jay Inslee’s (D-Wash.) announcement to run for governor of Washington, Inslee’s reputation for giving out slippery facts has begun to infect the media friendly to his campaign.

The site of Inslee’s Monday morning announcement of candidacy was Targeted Growth, Inc, a biotech firm in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle.

Because of a Sunday front-page expose in The Washington Post that documented an uncanny connection between the “clean-tech” companies visited by Pres. Barack Obama on his speaking tours and donations made by the same companies and their employees, journalists are going to be paying more attention than ever to the locations of politicians’ speeches.

Publicola set out to do just that this morning by acknowledging the need to investigate possible linkages between scheduling and donations:

Given the embarrassing bust the Washington Post published on yesterday’s front page about President Obama (raising the question of whether the green companies Obama’s been hyping are real industry leaders or just big Obama donors?), I had to check in on Targeted Growth, Inc., the South Lake Union biotech company where U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee is making his big announcement this morning.

The Democrats pretty much all use the same play book from president to Congressman, so I checked to see if the company was a big Inslee donor.

Nope. According to Federal Elections Commission records, a few folks from Targeted Growth have contributed to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), but my initial check didn’t turn up any donations from the company or its employees to Inslee.

The Washington State Republican Party independently fact-checked Publicola’s claim and found it inaccurate.

According to the WSRP’s initial research (verified by NW Daily Marker), at least $3,500 in donations to Inslee have been made by lobbyists working for Targeted Growth, Inc. since 2008. The firm of Van Ness Feldman retained by Targeted Growth for lobbying services donated $2,500 to Inslee in 2010, and former staffer for Sen. Patty Murray (D) now-Van Ness Feldman lobbyist Ben Lee McMakin donated $1,000 in 2008.

NW Daily Marker is continuing to research Inslee’s campaign finance records and will update this story as required.

UPDATE: Shortly before this article was published, the WSRP contacted Publicola‘s Josh Feit with their findings. Publicola printed a retraction this afternoon, though the correction did not note that it was the WSRP’s research that located the error.

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[photo credit: flickr]

Error

AP ‘Fact-Checks’ McKenna and Tosses Governors Race to the Math Geeks

In the two weeks since Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced he was running for governor in 2012, the Associated Press has been wearing down red pencils fact-checking claims made during Republican Rob McKenna during his announcement speech earlier this month.

The AP found errors in three of the claims made by McKenna and as is often the case in Seattle’s media echo chamber, the story pinged quickly from one outlet to another. At 9:32 and 9:35 a.m. Father’s Day, the AP fact check on McKenna’s budget math was published by The Seattle Times and Seattlepi.com, respectively. By Monday, Seattle Weekly, Publicola.com, the Blog-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, and several other statewide outlets had picked up the story to spread the news.

The core message of McKenna’s announcement speech has been that our state government has grown too big, becoming burdensome both fiscally and in terms of its overregulation of businesses, schools, and individuals. He partnered this opinion with shocking statistics about growth in state workers’ salaries and benefits as well as the overall number of state employees, stats the AP redlined in its Sunday special fact check.

But though the AP corrected McKenna’s claims about the precise magnitude of state government growth, they did not rebut or disprove the core truth—growth has taken place and at an alarming rate.

Ironically, the current focus on budget math in Washington’s one-horse gubernatorial race may produce a teaching moment on the real fallout from single-party rule in Olympia, a morality play in which McKenna can easily emerge as the white knight opposite to outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire and sitting Democratic House Majority Leader Frank Chopp.

Nevertheless, the opportunity to take a chunk out of a front-runner Republican in the open race for governor is reason enough to throw caution to the wind. McKenna handed over a useful weapon by using sloppy math to arrive at his budget statistics, and the bloodsport dictates that weapon be used.

The AP’s rectification focused on three claims made by McKenna on the growth in state spending on employee salaries, the growth in state spending on employee benefits, and the increase in the actual number of employees working for the state.

By using an incorrect method to calculate percentage growth in these areas in the years between 1998 and 2008, McKenna overstated salary growth by 1.4%—the true rate of salary growth was 3.6%—and gave a figure for benefits inflation that was also off by 1.9%—the proper rate of growth in state worker’s benefits spending was 7.1%.

The AP story also fairly pointed out that McKenna’s faulty math came out in his favor when he understated the explosion in the size of the state workforce:

His number was actually low for the 1998 to 2008 period, as the number of full-time-equivalent workers grew 17 percent over that period.

Still, Seattle Weekly volleyed that truth with backspin, implying with smoke-and-mirrors wordplay that the Republican candidate was still wrong in his overall campaign theme that state government has grown too large and become too expensive. From Monday’s piece at Seattle Weekly:

In reality, the state has been slashing positions (down 7,000 since 2008) and chopping the budget–it’s set to cut $4.5 billion over the next two years. Someone buy Rob McKenna a new calculator.

Bonus points for snark, but the facts on the size of the state workforce over time do not correlate with the Seattle Weekly’s claims, suggesting their own abacus may need an upgrade. According the State Office of Financial Management, Washington employed 111,419.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) state workers in 2008. The OFM also reports that the 2009-2011 biennial budget is for 108,987 FTE staff. That is a difference of 2,432.5 workers, not 7,000 as the Weekly suggests.

Backbench analyses by AP and other outlets imply that even the real growth in the number of state workers must be put in the context of state population growth, and when that is taken into account McKenna’s argument turns to vapor. According to the AP, getting to the truth is just a matter of looking at a different sample than the one used by McKenna to make his claims: [Ed. emphasis added.]

But the number of state personnel fell 2 percent last year and is expected to fall 2 percent again this coming year. Looking at the decade between 2000 and 2010, the number of full-time-equivalent workers will have only grown by 10 percent.

“Only” 10% growth is still growth. So, unless the press is just playing a game of splitting hairs, McKenna’s correct when he says that state workforce is growing. Right? No, no, in the opinion of the AP reporter the issue of the state worker population has to be compared to growth in the population overall:

By comparison, Census data shows the number of people living in Washington state grew by 14 percent over the same span.

But the facts do not strongly support that counterclaim made by the press watchdogs either, at least according to OFM figures that show the number of full-time state employees per 1,000 Washington residents rising from 16.5 in 1998 to 16.9 in 2008.

On a positive note, the Fourth Estate’s vigorous pursuit of spotlighting the smaller errors behind McKenna’s larger truths has to be a good sign that the Seattle press klatch will commit equal energy to investigating the fantastic Al Gore-quality assertions of pseudo-science of Congressman Jay Inslee once he formally steps into the race.

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[Note: The paragraph beginning “‘Only’ 10% growth…” was edited from the original posted version for reasons of clarity.]

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